Cope's rule in cryptodiran turtles: do the body sizes of extant species reflect a trend of phyletic size increase?


Daniel S. Moen, Department of Ecology and Evolution, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY-11794-5245, USA.
Tel.: +631-632-1886; fax: +631-632-7626;


Cope's rule of phyletic size increase is questioned as a general pattern of body size evolution. Most studies of Cope's rule have examined trends in the paleontological record. However, neontological approaches are now possible due to the development of model-based comparative methods, as well as the availability of an abundance of phylogenetic data. I examined whether the phylogenetic distribution of body sizes in extant cryptodiran turtles is consistent with Cope's rule. To do this, I examined body size evolution in each of six major clades of cryptodiran turtles and also across the whole tree of cryptodirans (n = 201 taxa). Extant cryptodiran turtles do not appear to follow Cope's rule, as no clade showed a significant phyletic body size trend. Previous analyses in other extant vertebrates have also found no evidence for phyletic size increase, which is in contrast to the paleontological data that support the rule in a number of extinct vertebrate taxa.